"Libya will cooperate and deal with the agency (the IAEA) with complete transparency...and Libya will sign the Additional Protocol." Libyan Foreign Minister Muhammad Abd al-Rahman Shalgam told a news conference.

"This is a clear message to everybody, especially the Israelis, they must start dismantling their weapons of mass destruction," he added.

Shalgam stressed that Libya's weapons programmes had been at a laboratory level and his country had never created nuclear weapons with any of the know-how it had acquired.
 
He echoed remarks made by the head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog who said on his way to Libya that the country did not seem to have been close to building an atomic bomb.

No enrichment

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Muhammad al-Baradai said there were no signs Libya had enriched uranium - a step that could be the first move to a bomb.

"From the look of it, they were not close to a weapon," he said in an interview with Reuters on the flight to Tripoli.

Al-Baradai said after talks in Tripoli Libya had promised to dismantle all its weapons of mass destruction programmes - chemical, biological and nuclear.

Al-Baradai told the joint news conference with Shalgam that a team of IAEA experts, who have led inspections in both Iran and Iraq, would begin technical talks with the head of Libya's
nuclear programme on Sunday.
 
Tripoli, which has signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), will now sign the so-called NPT Additional Protocol permitting the more intrusive, short-notice checks.

Bought from middlemen

President Muammar al-Qadhafi got
the hardware from "middlemen"

Al-Baradai said he would present Libya's intention to sign the protocol to the next IAEA Board of Governors meeting in March. Tripoli can sign the document after if the board gives
the go-ahead.

Al-Baradai said it was unclear who provided Libya with its nuclear technology. Similar to Iran, Libya told the IAEA it got its enrichment centrifuges from "middlemen" on the black market.

"As we understand, it was through the black market, through
the middle people, so the countries of origin (of the
technology) were not necessarily aware," he said.

In Iran's case, a combination of Pakistani and other middlemen, aided by a handful of Pakistani scientists appear to have provided Iran with the crucial know-how and hardware to build its enrichment programme, diplomats have told Reuters.

One diplomat close to the IAEA said the investigation into
the origin of Libya's enrichment programme might provide some answers to the question of where Iran got its technology.

Israel should follow

Shalgam said the decision to scrap banned weapons was voluntary, indirectly dismissing the suggestion that the war in Iraq had scared Tripoli into coming clean about its WMD.

Asked when Tripoli began looking into developing nuclear weapons, Shalgam said in English: "I don't exactly remember exactly when we started such programmes, but I think it was
before 10, 11 or 15 years."


Israel has not signed the NPT and has never officially acknowledged having atomic weapons

Libya's President Muammar al-Qadhafi said this week other nations suspected of developing banned weapons, such as North Korea, should follow Libya's lead.

"They should take Libya's example so that they prevent any tragedy being inflicted on their own peoples. This would tighten the noose around the Israelis so they would expose their programmes and weapons of mass destruction," he said.

Israel has not signed the NPT and has never officially acknowledged having atomic weapons.